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Conservation

The following three firearms in the Kienbusch Collection present a variety of issues that conservators face when caring for arms and armor. Although the firearms are kept in a stable environment within the Museum galleries, many have not been disassembled and thoroughly examined in over thirty years.

Each firearm was documented with photographs taken when assembled and disassembled and before, during, and after conservation treatment. Detailed examination reports, proposals for curatorial approval for treatment, and final treatment reports were written for each firearm.

A Wheellock Pistol: Compensation for Lost Material

Wheellock Pistol, c. 1540
Wheellock Pistol, c. 1540
Artist unknown
Bequest of Carl Otto Kretzschmar von Kienbusch, 1977
1977-167-774
This wheellock pistol, made in Germany around 1540, is one of the oldest firearms in the Kienbusch Collection, and one of very few of such early date in the world. The pistol has a wooden stock with simple carving along the forestock, and an iron alloy lock mechanism and barrel with etched and gilt foliate designs. The octagonal barrel has a 12 mm diameter smooth bore. The letters "M S" are stamped on the breech of the barrel, and an indistinct mark is struck on the lock plate. The makers of the barrel, lock, and stock, and the original owner of the pistol are unknown.

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Both the interior and exterior of the lock mechanism were dirty. The interior components were covered with rust, and there was a notable loss in the wood at the muzzle end of the forestock. The pistol was disassembled and the metal components were cleaned with organic solvents and given a protective coating of wax.

To fill the loss in the forestock, a piece of maple wood was adhered and shaped to the stock, and gaps surrounding the repair were filled. The repair piece was colored and coated to match the surrounding wood. The interior surface of the repair piece was not colored so that it may be easily identified as a modern repair when the pistol is examined in the future. In addition, the restoration is reversible and is fully documented in the conservation report on this object.

A Flintlock Long Gun: Structural Repair

Flintlock Gun of Wilhelmine Charlotte of Brandenburg, c. 1730
Flintlock Gun of Wilhelmine Charlotte of Brandenburg, c. 1730
by Georg Keiser
Bequest of Carl Otto Kretzschmar von Kienbusch
1977-167-840
This flintlock gun was made around 1730 in Vienna by the celebrated gunmaker Georg Keiser (Austrian, active Vienna, 1664-c. 1740). Keiser was one of the leading Austrian gunmakers from the period. He made this gun for Princess Wilhelmina Charlotte Caroline of Brandenburg-Ansbach. The gun has an ornately carved stock, "watered" iron alloy barrel and lock, and openwork gilt decorative plates. Both the lockplate and barrel are inlaid with the gunmaker’s name in gold.

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At some point in the past, the thin forestock of this gun had broken in two and was held in place only by the pins that secure the barrel to the stock. Although the iron alloy barrel and lock mechanism were in good condition, the gilt brass mounts on the stock had dark spots of corrosion.

To repair the broken forestock, the two components were adhered with dilute hide glue, and "bandages" of strong Japanese paper were attached to the interior surface for additional support. Colored wax was used to fill remaining gaps in the crack on the exterior and give a uniform appearance to the wood. The barrel and lock were cleaned with solvents and coated with wax. The gilt brass components were cleaned with organic solvents on areas of thick corrosion. Residues were cleared with deionized water.

A Combined Hunting Sword and Flintlock Pistol: Corrosion Removal

Combined Hunting Sword and Flintlock Pistol, c. 1730
Combined Hunting Sword and Flintlock Pistol, c. 1730
by Johann Andreas Niefind
Purchased with funds from Mr. and Mrs. Hiroaki Saga and with the Walter E. Stait Fund
2009-89-1
A recent Museum purchase, this object combines a sword and a flintlock pistol, and was created by Johann Andreas Niefind in Olbernhau in Saxony about 1730. The pistol barrel has a 12 mm diameter smooth bore and is attached to the sword at the base of the blade. The wooden grip is carved into the shape of a dog’s head. This object is an especially fine and early example of the type of "combination" weapon used by eighteenth-century horsemen to hunt stags and boars. The weapon was used on horseback as a firearm, and then the hunter dismounted and used the weapon as a sword.

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The pistol-sword had thick corrosion and grime on its interior components, creating a challenging disassembly for examination and treatment. Both the sword blade and the pistol had old corrosion and minor scratches on their surfaces. The dog’s head had losses on the face that had been filled with repair material in a prior restoration. Some of these areas stood out because the color of the fill material did not match the surrounding wood.

The metallic pistol components were soaked in an organic solvent to aid in disassembly. Once the parts could be separated, they were cleaned with a variety of solvents to remove grime and corrosion. The interior components of the flintlock mechanism and the sword blade were gently polished with fine abrasives and protected with a coating of paste wax. The goals of polishing were to remove some of the disfiguring scratches, and the more recent corrosion products, and to restore a homogenous appearance to the metallic components of the pistol and the sword. Older, stable black corrosion products remained in deep surface pits because their removal would have caused damage to the blade. The prior repairs on the dog’s face were inpainted to match the adjacent wood.

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